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Beijing Dabon

Introduction of Beijing Dabon

Beijing then, also known as DanxmptwU originated in China's capital. it is a form of baijiaogu popular among young Manchu people during the reigns of the Emperors Qianlong and Jiaqing of the Qing Dynasty. it is accompanied on a stringed instrument and an octagonal drum. The performer sings and plays the drum to please himself as much as to please others. The small drum is covered with snake skin, with holes on seven sides. Two brass strips are attached to each hole. When the story teller shakes the drum the brass strips resound. The earliest song known to this genre is called The Drunknd from BaiXUe Yi Ying written by Hua Guangsheng in 1 804 (third volume).

in the beginning, performances of danXian consisted of one artist, who beat the octagonal drum to provide rhythm, and a musician playing three-stringed lute and sjnging. Si Ruixuan, whose stage name was Sui Yuanle and who was a member of a Manchu Banner, wrote songs and lyrics for Beijing dahagn around 1880. He performed in tea houses. Ever since, the danXisn has been popular as an independent category of quyi.

When the Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911 and the Republic of China came into being, many amateur danXisn artists who were Manchu by birth became professional singers. They were well received by the audiences. Those who were steeped in popular folk songs sang danXian on the stage as did those who were good at rendering Kunqu Opera's high-pitched arias, which were incorporated into the danxian. This increased the number of dahon programs and the power of the art to express emotions. Eventually, a total of more than 100 performances of danxian appeared, as it blossomed during this period. Four schools came to the fore-those of the Rong, Chang, Xie and Tan.

The Schools of Danxian

1. The Rong School was formed by Rong Jianchen (1881-1958), a Manchu by birth. His full name in Manchu was Guan Ejia Rongxun, alias Jianchen, written in two different ways. As an amateur he studied under Ming Yongshun in 1901 and then became a professional performer He adopted the high-pitched arias of Peking Opera, and developed his own style of danxian. His voice was sweet, mellow and clear He acted and sang very well, and his dialogues were very touching and detailed. His Xi Hou, Feng Bo Ting and Courtesan's jewel Box had the greatest artistic appeal.

2. The Chang School was founded by Chang Shutian (1890-1945),who was also called Chang Yupei. He was born in Beijing as a member of the Manchu ethnic group. His father and uncle were lovers of art and noted amateur performers of the octagonal drum danxian. At the age of 12, Chang Shutian gave performances as an amateur, turning professional in 1910. He studied under the well known danxian artist De Shoushan. In a high-pitched voice he sang loudly and articulated each word very clearly He expressed heroic and grand sentiments. Some of his stories, filled with humor, are light in character He imitated the voices of other persons and impersonated their behavior.the way he beat the drom was unique. Artists of later generations learned his way of drum beating and inherited his legacy. The favorite numbers sung by Chang Shutian include Rouge, Tiao Lian Cai Yi and Golden Mountain Temple.

3. The Xie School was founded by Xie Ruizhi (1882-1957), who was born in Beijing. An amateur performer of the octagonal drum danxian he became a professional after being taught by Wang Liushun. Xie Ruizhi had a deep and resonant voice, and was noted for his ingenious and artful vocal music. He created characters with the aid of the voices of different people, which he successfully imitated. He possessed a gentle and refined style. The programs he performed included Gao Lao Zhuang Chen Xiang Chuangand Wu Song.

4. The Tan School was founded by Tan Fengyuan(1898-1964), a member of the Manchu ethnic group and born in Beiing. He inherited the danxian techniques from his own family. Very fond of jingyun dagu he studied the art under Liu Baoquan. ln the latter part of the 1930s he performed for, in which he was highly Successful. He created a unique style of singing, with a rich tonal quality, loud presentation and beautiful melody. His base voice reverberated in the minds of the audiences long after his performances had ended. He was held up as a model for later performers to follow. The Fisherman's Revenge is one of his famous numbers. "in Times of Peace" is a section of this program. it deals with Xiao En, who meets Li jun and Ni Rong, while fishing. The artist sings in a voice that rises steeply to give a vivid depiction of the hero. Danxian gets its themes mostly from famous Chinese novels: Strange Tales of LiaoZhi, Strange bes New and old and outlaws of the Marsh. The better known numbers are: Rouge, The Courtesan's jewel Box and Wu Shihui Some reflect the life styles of people at different periods of history. The Poor Woman's Visit to the Wanshou Temple describes the life of the people at the end of the Qing Dynasty, and Qiu jin Rises in Rebellion describes conditions in the early years of the Chinese Republic.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, danxian developed further New programs were written and performed, while changes were made in vocal music and performance. The duet of male and female voices was introduced, and the singing of many songs continuously was a significant feature. the leading singers were Cao Baolu, Shi Huiru, Zhao Yuming and Ma Zenghui. (Fig. 1-17) Amateurs became active again after the 1980s.

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